Climate change may kill many more people than the Ebola virus, a group of U.K. doctors said in a call for the World Health Organization to declare the issue a public emergency.
Burning fossil fuels causes about 7 million premature deaths from indoor and outdoor air pollution, according to the BMJ, a medical journal owned by the British Medical Association. While the WHO has shown leadership on climate change, it has stopped short of declaring a public health emergency, said Editor-in-Chief Fiona Godlee.
“This may be understandable with Ebola raging, but it is what WHO should now do,” she said in an editorial. “Deaths from Ebola infection, tragic and frightening though they are, will pale into insignificance when compared with the mayhem we can expect for our children and grandchildren if the world does nothing to check its carbon emissions.”
Global temperatures have already increased by 0.85 of a degree since 1880, and the current trajectory puts humanity on course for a warming of at least 3.7 degrees Celsius, the United Nations has estimated. That’s quicker than the shift in the climate when the last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago.
Risks linked to climate change include rising sea levels, melting glaciers, more pervasive heatwaves and increased water shortages in areas stressed by drought, industry demands and rising populations.